Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Red Dead Winter - 2014 Gaming Year in Review

As has become a tradition at WAGS, my gaming year in review:

Last year I played ~136 times (136 "plays") allowing me to play an average of about a game every three days.

I played 60 different games, of which 29, or almost exactly half, were new to me.

My most played game was, surprisingly, Warfighter by DVG, at ten plays, followed very closely by Band of Brothers: Ghost Panzer and Red Winter, tied for second at eight plays each. Yes, I love wargames.

My most played eurogame was 7 Wonders with four plays, and my most played heavier euro was Archipelago, with three.

In 2013, I had played 139 games, and in 2012, I played 165, so the overall trend is down, but not a significant amount, and my statistical sample is poor, with only three years recorded. From 2012 to 2013 the difference is statistically insignificant, and considering I took two significant vacation breaks this year, I don’t think I did too badly. I also think I’ve probably missed recording about a half-dozen to a dozen plays, but I can’t be certain.

Of the eurogames that were new to me, I think I enjoyed Dead of Winter the most, though some might term it more thematic than euro. Interestingly, when I tried to go through and look at games that were new to me, I played very, very few new pure euros this year. In fact, I knew that was the case, but it was interesting to see just how much of a trend it was. The list is so short, I can easily write them all out: Red7, Hanabi and Nothing Personal (and even Nothing Personal has some very thematic elements), and Red7 and Hanabi are both very abstract set-collection-type card games as opposed to traditional table-top euros. Everything else I played was either a wargame or had really strong thematic aspects.

Which is not to say 2014 was necessarily a bad year for euros – I’ve just apparently missed some interesting games: Five Tribes, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Splendor, Imperial Settlers, Istanbul, Sheriff of Nottingham, Abyss, Alchemists, Panamax, Deus, Fields of Arle. Despite these being some of the highest rated for 2014, I’ve entirely missed hearing about Splendor, and only heard peripherally of some of the others (I did see Imperial Settlers, Five Tribes and Sheriff of Nottingham on the tables at TABSCons).

Interestingly, only two games published in 2014 have squeaked their way into the BGG top 100, Dead of Winter and Splendor (which makes me think I should check out Splendor).

I’m sad to say that there haven’t been any real blow me away moments in 2014. I really did enjoy Dead of Winter, but it wasn’t spectacular as other games have been for me in the past.

Two games which did surprise me this year were Red Winter and Warfighter, both of which were wargames that I had been watching, but had not expected to be my cup of tea. Both turned out to be satisfying, quick-playing games which are readily replayable. Another late-in-the-year surprise was Eklund’s Greenland, which I was entirely uninterested in based on its theme, but turned out to be a really engaging game.

A game that I had been eagerly anticipating last year, Canadian Crucible, arrived, but unfortunately, I’ve had difficulty finding people to play it with. After two plays, I feel like I want to play it more, but I can’t label it as the best of the year by any stretch.

The game I most enjoyed playing this year has been Dead of Winter – in only three plays, we’ve had some really fun moments. The wargame which was the standout this year for me was Red Winter, which combines an interesting setting, well-balanced scenarios and a intuitive design with engaging and fast play. Yes, the coincidence of name is not lost on me, nor is the irony that the winter of 2014 has been, thus far, something of a no-show.

An honourable mention should go to Clash of Cultures, which, with the Civilizations add-on, has become for me the best ancient/classical-world civilization game out there. Another honourable mention is given to Greenland, which as mentioned above, I was entirely willing to pass on. Thanks to Miguel for saving it from the abyss!

In 2012, Miguel had mentioned innovative games. For me, some of the interesting stand-outs for innovation have been Tragedy Looper, for its interesting take on deduction puzzles, and the War Stories series, which features great aspects of fog of war at the tactical level while still having some significant design issues at the same time.

So, it was a relatively quiet year for gaming for me. In some ways, it’s been a return to the roots of what attracted to me to gaming in the first place – thematic games with a lot of wargaming on the side.

Here’s to a more adventurous 2015!

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